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Friday, June 26, 2009

Agent Billy Serow: Show Your Strengths On Demo Right Away

Agent Billy Serow: Show Your
Strengths On Demo Right Away
Voice acting in New York City is the specialty of Billy Serow, the gifted talent agent at Abrams Artists.
"It's such an exciting thing to find the next great voice," he says in the recent Episode #4 of the Erik & Ember Show podcast.
Yes, the Big Apple is a union town, with most hiring done by casting directors. But Serow listens to demos from both union and non-union talent. That's because a non-union talent can obtain a waiver to perform the first union job. The second union job requires union membership.
Of course, there's plenty of competition.
In the podcast, Serow tells hosts Erik Sheppard and September Day Leach that out of a hundred or more demos he receives each week from people seeking his representation as an agent, he'll pick just three or five to listen to a second time.
The hook?
"You've got to grab somebody in the first 15 to 20 seconds" of the demo, he explains. "Show your strengths and then reinforce them."
Serow says that it's often "hard to determine what they're best at" when reviewing demos.
This and many more nuggets of career advice are heard on the podcast, produced by Sheppard's Voice Talent Productions. To listen, click on Episode #4 in the right column of Sheppard's blog page, under the Erik And Ember Show logo.
You'll be enticed to hear other episodes, too, including interviews with Joan Baker, Heather Halley and Ann DeWig.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009



Voice actors make good money making the right noises

By Miguel R. Camus

In the Philippines, a name that has become synonymous with voice-overs is CreatiVoices Productions. It is a four-year old company cofounded by Pocholo “Voicemaster” Gonzales himself, a long time voice actor.

Doing voice-overs has grown into a lucrative part-time industry due to the continuing expansion of the electronic media. “Before, voice acting was just for radio,” says Gonzales. “Now there’s also the internet, PodCasts, video games, and cartoons and TV show dubbings.”

The most popular of these voice-over applications, he says, are audio book recordings, animations or TV show dubbings, original content (pre-voice recording), and radio and TV advertisements. Voice-over talents who are paid on a per project basis, can actually earn some P30,000 to P50,000 for doing audio books alone which are mostly textbook translation; about P10,000 to P20,000 for radio and television advertisements; P500 to P1,000 per episode for anime and soap opera dubbings, and up to P30,000 for original content creation.

So how does one get into the Voice-over business?

Gonzales says that voice-over training is a prerequisite no matter how good the aspiring voice talent is, and he emphasizes that doing voice-overs is not just a hobby but an art and a profession. Indeed, this was why Gonzales decided in 2007 to put up the Philippine Center for Voice Acting, the first and only professional voice acting school in the Philippines. He established CreatiVoices himself with an initial capital of only P20,000 but it has become almost an industry by itself.

As the training arm of CreatiVoices, the center conducts a two-month voice acting program for a selected number of students using modules imported from the United States. The P8,000-program consists of once-a-week classes and runs four times a year, with classes that starts in January, April, July and October. The center has five instructors, all respected voice-over industry veterans. “When you train with us, in one day I can make you create 20 voices,” says Gonzales.

He says that although the center does not guarantee voice-over jobs to students who finish the program, it gives them support in landing voice-over contracts. In fact, almost a quarter of his stable 400 local voice-over talents, graduates of the program and a lot of his talents find work in other voice-over companies.

He explains the industry practice, “Even among my talents, there are no exclusive contracts. In my own case, I’m not exclusive to my own company; I work with different recording studios as well.” Considering that projects don’t come regularly, he also cautions voice-over talents to treat doing voice-overs strictly as a “sideline” profession.

Active in the industry for over 15 years now, Gonzales has done voice-over projects for hundreds of radio and TV commercials for practically all of the telecommunication companies, fast food chains, beverage companies, financial institutions, and government agencies as well as politicians on the campaign trail.

Some of his students at CreatiVoices have done very well themselves upon finishing its voice-over training program.

For instance, Jo Carol Fernandez, 18, communications sophomore at the Miriam College in Quezon City, has done many voice-over projects for anime shows since finishing the training. She says she dubbed voices for major characters in the shows Bokura Ga Ita (26 episodes) and Negima as well as for other projects outside CreatiVoices.

On the other hand, Mark B. Aragona, 30, writer and financial consultant, received an offer todo three advertisements for a large telecom company barely a month after finishing his voice-over training. “Let’s just say I made five times my investment for those ads,” he says.

Aragona likes the fact that doing voice-overs is very flexible in terms time. Although some projects can take up to an hour, he says, doing 15 minutes of voice-over work for an advertisement is already long.

Voice actors like Fernandez and Aragona are able to cultivate and hone their talent for professional voice-over work through CreatiVoices, which has since grown into an agency with 10 fulltime staff and some 500 local and international on-call voice actors. The company has not only given the voice-over industry a common face but now also enjoys instant recognition as the industry leader.

Says Gonzales of people wanting to go into doing voice-overs: “If you have a job, and if you’re really good and I want you to take the character, I will wait for you.” And he tells aspiring talents to see doing voice-overs not just as another job but also as a way of having fun, like what he himself does. “I just doing what I want to do,” he says. “This is not work; I’m just playing.”